Many fitness apps meant to support your healthy lifestyle habits by asking you to check your weight frequently. But is this really an effective way to lose weight and keep it off?
To lean out, we want to drop our body fat, not necessarily our muscles. A scale can not differ and only records overall body weight.
Benefits Of Tracking
It’s similar like counting calories – there are benefits of tracking your scale numbers. But it might also cause negative side effects if you do it too often.
A positive outcome would be to help you to stay on track, eg compare your numbers from the previous month. Surely this will tell you how much body weight you lost. But be aware, there is a big difference between shedding off fat or fat-free components.
Body Weight vs. Body Fat
Excessive body weight puts us at increased risk for developing health issues. This is a know fact for a while, but over the last decades research concluded a more detailed outcome: Excessive fat mass is an even stronger predictor of risk factors in the overweight/ obese population. This lead to the obvious goal to reduce fat mass if you are overweight.
Short-term Weight Loss
Your scale can only tell you so much. If you measure yourself daily, you are not very likely to track your body composition changes, eg. fat mass loss. Instead, any fluctuation in your hydration level is most likely the reason you observe short-term changes on your scale.
Since any active person needs to hydrate well to stay healthy, drinking less to fake your scale numbers is not a good option.
Losing Weight Quickly
Another fast way of losing weight is changing your diet to a low carb version. Some pretty popular, but not necessarily healthy diets, ask you to cut out carbohydrates. This leads to a very fast weight loss. But what many dieters are not aware of, carbohydrates are stored with water in your body. So if you stop fueling them, you drop weight quickly.
Unfortunately this is not the effect you want, especially if you are active. You get tired and dehydrated instead of having the energy you want for exercising, fueling your active and healthy lifestyle.
Lose Fat, Gain Muscles
Instead of going for a quick solution, which is in the majority not possible to keep up, you will need to realize that change takes time.
To increase your likelihood for a sustainable change, you should start implementing strength training 2-3x/ week.
Strength exercises can speed up your fat mass loss while avoiding losing your muscle mass.
It can actually lead to a gain in fat free muscle mass which is very beneficially. Added muscle mass increases your metabolism and helps you to keep the extra (fat) pounds off.
Weight vs. Body Composition
If frequent weight tracking on your sclae is not the ideal way to go, what else could you do to check your bodily changes? Measuring your body composition would be the recommended version.
It is most commonly done with a body fat measurement tool like a caliper.
Since not everybody has access to a coach or trainer doing a caliper measurement for them, you could simply track your limb and torso circumferences instead. Your mid-upper arm, waist and hip circumferences are good reference numbers when trying to lose body fat.
If the numbers go down, it is most likely that you lost body fat. Muscles have a higher density compared to fat. If you add muscle mass and lost weight, your size will shrink, while you keep a similar weight.
Additionally, you can track your waist to hip ratio (WHR), which is a reference number for assessing your health risk factors. This ratio is negatively correlated with the cardiometabolic risk. The lower your ratio, the lower your risk. Simply divide your waist measurement by your hip number.
The health risk is very high for young men when WHR is >0.95, and for young women when WHR is >0.86. A higher number is usually seen in individuals with higher amounts of abdominal fat, a risk factor for health complications.
Checking your circumferences and body weight once a month might provide helpful reference numbers. Body changes take time, and it could be disappointing trying to measure them too often. Look at them as part of your long-term journey! They are a part of your latest healthy lifestyle changes. You can not force them, but they will come along nicely, I promise!
The more consistently you stick to your new, healthier habits, the more likely you will be able to measure them.
Move more and eat better!